I was talking with my friend, Jack Wood, with the Jackson-Madison County [Tenn.] library, when he asked this simple question - Where Are the Tree Houses?
We were lamenting the loss of simple activities that promoted creativity and imagination. He remembered how he 'found' lumber in his neighborhood to build his tree house. My experience was much the same. My tree house was in a mulberry tree located on the back property line on a hill. I had inherited the tree from my brother, Denny, who had held the tree as his own for many years. The lowest limb on the mulberry tree was beyond my reach, which kept me at bay. Denny has always loved chocolate, so whenever he had extra money it was spent for candy bars. In an effort to torture his little brother, he would keep his 'treasure' in a brown bag which he suspended high in the air in the mulberry tree. He also created a booby trap with fish hooks on the trunk of the mulberry tree to prevent access.
As a determined adventurer, as soon as he left for school, I began planning. One of the problems with the mulberry tree was its proximity to the sight of Mrs. Frey. Since I was the small, adorable child, she was often concerned that I might be injured and phoned my Mom. This protected me from the normal fighting with my brothers, who were larger, but prevented my attempts at scaling the mulberry tree with tools and ladders.
On this day, I decided that if I dragged a small wooden box under the mulberry tree, I might be able to jump while reaching upward to snag that lowest limb. In our building, I found a empty nail keg, which I thought would be excellent stepping stool. Unfortunately, the ground beneath the mulberry tree was rough and irregular. I steadied the barrel and climbed upon it. 1 - 2 - 3 and jump. I caught the lowest limb and thought I had achieved success. As I worked my way closer to the trunk of the tree, I realized that I missed the line of fish hooks up and down the mulberry tree.
I swung my legs up and around the limb, easing my way toward the bag of candy bars. Ouch! What was that? Ouch! I had been skewered by one of the booby trap fish hooks. Facing defeat, I began to realize how high above the ground I was hanging in pain. Deciding I couldn't jump down, my plan focused on moving to the trunk and shinnying down the trunk to the safe terra firma.
Making it safely to the trunk, wrapping my arms around the trunk, I started sliding down the tree. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Fish Hooks! Reaching the ground with tattered clothing and three fish hooks protruding from my body, I ran with all my might to the house to tell my Mom what Denny had done to me. My screaming must have alarmed Mrs. Frey because my Mom knew exactly what had happened before I arrived. Ok, good and bad memories surround that mulberry tree.
I agreed with Jack that libraries often served as the source of information and discovery for our communities. Woodworkers would review Popular Mechanics or Woodworking magazines for ideas to build. My oldest brother, Joe, learned to build radios and simple electronics from magazines. These early experiences formed a pathway to his career as an Engineer and Systems Analyst.
Early memories and experiences shape our love of history and often form the foundation for our desire to collect and share the stories of our family. As my great-neice and great-nephew were found climbing in the cherry tree in their grandparents' yard, I was reminded of my mulberry tree just down the hill from where they climbed. [They live in the historic house where Mrs. Frey watched out her window.] Dig deep, share your stories, and help those who follow you to create their own special memories. Keep the story alive.
Be sure to record or write down the stories/memories of your family. Document the date, time and location for posterity.